A shortage of officers at the Cleveland Police Department's fourth district on the city's east side, which is known to be a high-crime area, has union leaders concerned.
Officers at the fourth are always busy handling a high number of calls around the clock.
“Our basic patrols are our front lines. We have to make sure that they’re staffed heavily,” said Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association president Jeff Follmer.
Follmer said the district was so short handed Saturday night that 11 officers were mandated to work overtime. Some officers are working as much as 16 hour shifts.
“Police officers are tired after working so many hours for so many days. We are like anybody else, we get burned out,” Follmer said.
Hundreds of retirements in the last few years have contributed to the issue.
“Police officers are retiring, and those positions haven’t been filled,” Follmer said.
“Anytime we have a shortage of officers then we are going to be concerned about safety in the community, and especially the fourth district where we have pockets that are very intense,” said Cleveland Councilman Blaine Griffin.
Griffin plans to bring up the issue at Wednesday’s safety committee meeting.
“I don’t want to see officers being pulled from the special units like sex crimes, homicide, as well as community service units and putting them in the patrols, because we need those special units more than anything, especially in the fourth district,” Griffin said.
A City spokesperson said there are four police academies this year that will graduate more officers to put on the streets.
The city’s goal is to add 100 officers city wide, bringing the total to 1,600 officers. But Follmer says that will be hard to do because of yearly retirements. He admits more people need to be recruited, and more people need to want to apply to become officers.
“This job is still a good job, but they’re having a hard time recruiting right now, so we need people to apply also,” Follmer said.
Follmer said because more officers are working overtime, response times are not affected at this time.
A police department spokesperson said they’re aware of the staffing shortage in the fourth district and they have taken steps to remedy the situation, but did not elaborate.